Postcards for a Swap

One of my must-read blogs is iHanna–and she is running a postcard swap again this year. Last year, the group made 2,800 cards, and this year, joining seemed to be loaded with potential, so I signed up. I’m making a lot of loose leaf pages for an art journal, so postcards are not that different.

First, I asked artist Bo Mackison if I could use Pottery Row, one of her Southwest photographs, to alter and work with. Lucky for me, Bo is generous and said yes.  The first thing I did was print out the photo on a piece of cotton fabric and ironed it on a piece of paper. To make sure it stayed, I zig-zag stitched around the edge. Thanks for art-pal Rosaland  Hannibal who taught me how to zig-zag to make a good-looking edge.

Bo Mackison's photo printed on cotton fabric, then stitched to watercolor paper.

The image looks soft because it’s printed on fabric. I like the sweep of color; it looks like a watercolor painting.

Next, I isolated one of the pots and printed it off in different sizes. I combined it with a disc of mica and placed it on top of an inked page.

Printed photographs, mica, ink-stained pages, stitching.

The curve of the pots seemed so interesting, I wanted to focus on them. For the next card, I printed out the single pot in a series of sizes and different papers and overstitched them, using an undulating stitch that mimics a paper cut-out I use frequently. (It appears on pgs. 63, 90-91 in my book, Raw Art Journaling.)

Photographic print, stitched onto watercolor paper.

The pot series may continue, but I wanted to try some other objects. Peacock feathers are a favorite object of mine. I bought one and took the dye out, and then bleached it. The effect is interesting on a wonderful subtle fabric that blends several browns and a hint of blue.

Peacock feather on fabric.

Now I needed some more color. Rosaland taught me to save all the clean-up paper towels and see what they look like dry. One was soaked in bright colors. I trimmed off a piece, attached it to watercolor paper, and stitched over it in bright colors. This technique will get a lot more exploration, but this first try is fun.

Dyed paper towel stitched on watercolor paper.

iHanna’s swap will require 10 postcards, and I may not use these, but it’s a great beginning. I also recently joined Postcrossing, and while I haven’t found someone who wants to exchange handmade postcards, I’m enjoying sending Arizona postcards to people around the world.

Quinn McDonald is deeply absorbed in mixed media art journal pages. She will be teaching these and other techniques at Valley Ridge Art Studio on May 5-6, 2012. There is still room in the class.

Postcard Portfolio

Top to bottom: paper mosaic, sponged paper, collage

After making the postcards as teaching samples, I decided they needed a portfolio to hold them. Nothing complicated– but something that would store them and maybe even display them.

Accordion-pleat journals are favorites of mine. They are versatile and simple to make. They are comfortable to work on, because you can turn them and open to the page you need. That was a good starting point.

To hold postcards, you need a pocket. To create one, you simple cut the height of the accordion fold larger, and fold the bottom up two inches to create a generous pocket. Deep pockets keep the postcards from falling out or scuffing as they slide.

Front of portfolio, closed

Instead of the traditional back-and-forth of the accordion fold, I folded the sides in twice–so no postcard was showing on the front, and giving the portfolio more of a book shape.

Opening the book shape, you see a spread of decorated paper, but the pockets are still hidden.

To make the portfolio, I cut and completed the folds using Arches Text Wove. The high cotton content of the paper allows a lot of surface design. Using a bone folder to make all the folds, I then opened the sheet up again and wet it thoroughly. I then crumpled it into a loose ball, opened it up, and applied India inks in sepia, brown and black, allowing the colors to run at will. Once the colors had soaked and spread, I hung the paper in the fig tree to dry. When it was still damp, I ironed it between parchments sheets to set the color, then refolded it along the original accordion fold lines. I then added loopy lines using Sakura gel pens in metallics and glaze inks.

Cards in place and fully open.

To keep the first and last postcards from falling out, I stitched the edges with waxed linen. I would do this more decoratively next time. I tried leaving the thread longer and tying bows, but I’m simply not a cutesy bow-lover.

The fourth postcard, third from left, is a foil-on-paper that I colored in using Copic markers. It’s edged in copper foil used by stained-glass makers.

The class for making all four postcards and the portfolio is tentatively scheduled at The Creative Quest on Sunday, June 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. I’ll post it on my website when its confirmed.

© Quinn McDonald, no copying without permission. 2011.

New Postcard Journaling Class

Postcards are interesting and versatile. They are fun to make, because you have full access to them. Unlike bound journals, you can turn a postcard and keep it flat. You can use one side for writing and the other for the design. You can make them in themes (travel, books read, nature) or for days or time periods (visits, vacations, holidays). They can be sent (to yourself or to others), traded, shared. All in all, a flexible and satisfying art medium.

I’m going to make this my next in-person class. It makes a good 2- or 3-hour class, and if we add foil, fabric, and sewn cards, along with a container, it can be an all-day class.

If you want the class taught to your art group, calligraphy group, art journaling group (yes, you can gather postcards into an art journal) or book club, please get in touch at QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com. I travel easily, and the supply list is short, making it a practical class to offer.

I’d prefer to teach the class in person before I do it online. I find that in-person classes allow for more personal work, allow me to be a creativity coach as well as an art workshop facilitator, answer questions, and offer encouragement. Eventually, I will do it online, but it needs to be an in-person class first.

Get in touch and let me know what you think! Or call me to get pricing for a group rate or class. Classes can be varied for the age or ability, and work well for creative writing classes in school, book groups, and corporate retreats. Get in touch: QuinnCreative [at] Yahoo [dot] com.

Thanks for the Sakura Postcards

When I wrote about the Sakura children–the kids left homeless by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I had no idea what would happen. Asking people to make postcards doesn’t seem like much, but it’s easy to forget. You didn’t forget. It would have been easy to just let it go–after all, what good would it do? But those who sent postcard know that art heals.

When I went to the post office today, I opened the box and found it empty. Well,  I thought, it was an experiment. Then I noticed the thin slip of paper on the bottom of the box. I slipped it out and found the note, “See a postal worker at the front desk.” I wondered why–I had just renewed the box and paid the fee.

When I got to the front, the postal employee asked me if I was “Sakura.” Uh-oh. Not wanting to explain, I said “Yes.” I’m not Asian, but then again, we don’t all look like our stereotypes. She brought me a dozen fat envelopes filled with postcards. My eyes filled up. It’s wonderful to know that people care enough to make art and share it.

Thanks to Marva in Colorado, Erica in New Jersey, and a group of anonymous card-makers with big hearts.

The photos here are just a quick collage of some of the cards. I’ve thanked some people before, but it’s time to thank all of you again. Cards came in singles, some came in envelopes. The youngest person to send a card was 6 years old. The oldest was well into her 80s. Some were anonymous. One package had the note, “We made a group of cards and added some money for postage.”

Thanks to Karen in Oregon, Lynn in Arizona and Priscilla in Massachusettes.

In the last months, I’ve had some low times. Wondering about war, the world, the people in it. To all of you who have sent a card, thank you so much. For your time. For your messages. For caring. I’ve shown the cards to friends and the reaction is universal: immediate soul-lifting. The joy in these small pieces of paper doesn’t wear out–they made me happy and they make everyone who sees them happy. That’s pretty amazing. Joy doesn’t get used up, it increases.

If you haven’t sent in your cards, you can read more about them here. Or, just make a card with a loving message for a child and send it to:

Sakura Children
P.O.Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

More Mixed-Media Postcards

The last batch of mixed-media postcards were a good beginning. Having fixed the concept, I began to work on details. Still exploring, still making mistakes, but getting better at identifying them.

After making the pink/yellow/orange one:

I decided it needed more. I added quotes from Plutarch (“Nature and wisdom never are at strife”) and one from Toni Morrison (“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it”) and one from J. Petit Senn (“Happiness is whwere we fine it, but rarely where we seek it.”) After that, I added design in gel pen and then framed it in copper tape. I think that was one step too far, but it was good practice in framing with copper tape, the kind stained glass artists use. I love the effect, even it was a little too much here. It can add a spark of color or a bit of steampunk, depending on the postcard.

Moving on to other unlikely materials,

this postcard is made on a tag base, uses book pages, black paper and cheesecloth. I love the effect. It’s not done yet, but so far, the stitching works well. Thanks, Rosaland of Soulful Creating,  for telling me about stitching over the edge.

I had some handmade paper with flower inclusions left from paper-making days,

so that became grist for the mill. Derwent Inktense pencils for the circles, and washi tape for the edging. I’m starting to pay attention to the finishing details now. In fact, the other side of this card is a different paper,

and uses a different tape for finishing. All of these cards will eventually have writing on the back that relates to the front. And my rule is that they must all be sent to make them real postcards.

I had some embossed foil in plain silver. Using Copic markers (alcohol markers) I colored the floral embossing, attached the foil to a card-stock backing with fusible webbing, and added a copper foil edge.

The edge doesn’t photograph well, (there are no black marks along the top, I think it’s a ceiling fan reflection) but it looks appropriate. It’s difficult to get right, as I have a well-known inability to get things perfect straight. I’m not sure all four sides need to be exactly even, but edging the postcards is almost always a must, so I will also try edging them in marker and bias tape.

This one is the beginning of a frame. I don’t know what’s going to go into the middle yet, but the hem tape and decorative touches make it look almost Victorian.  It’s 4 inches  6 inches, so I’ll have to watch the proportion.

Remember I said I had a postcard that needed a zipper? Here it is. “I’itoi unzips the sky at morning.”

There are other zipper cards coming. I want to attach two cards using a zipper that separates. But first I’m enjoying this one.

Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer whose art combines words and images. Her book, “Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art” will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.

Mixed Media Postcards

The new sewing machine has enchanted me. While I’ve made some spectacular mistakes that involve picking chewed-up thread bits out of the machine with a vacuum cleaner and buying a special pair of teensy scissors to reach into crevices and cut out thread, the machine is easy to use. Particularly if you use it for what it was intended to do–sew cloth.

I’ve been working on combining fabric and paper to make some postcards for the Japanese kids left without homes after the earthquake in Japan. You can help, too, the address is at the bottom of this post. But first, the postcards.

Voile in yellow, orange and pink. Cheery!

I purchased some floaty material called voile in a color that, if it were any more saturated, would make my pupils contract involuntarily. Because the material is so sheer, the color is, too. The images here seem to be more vivid than the real fabric. I’m trying to work outside my usual neutral color palette, and this was way out of my comfort zone.

Sewing the fabric to the card proved to be a little tricky. Voile is slippery. Sew it onto paper and it shifts, slides, bunches and stuffs itself into the place where the bobbin will eat it. So I purchased a piece of double-sided fusible and ironed the voile onto one side and the paper (to make it look like a postcard) on the other.

The double-sided fusible was thick enough so the paper was just a nice detail. I could have used single-sided fusible, but I wanted the postcard to look like a postcard and not like a discarded scrap from the sewing room.

The postcard needed a bit more life, so I sewed another layer onto the top half of the card. This gave it a deeper, more finished look.

The card is fun; it reminded me of an Arizona sunset. Which made me wonder what would happen if I drew a design on paper and covered the paper with the voile. No fusible, just machine stitching.

First I drew a cactus and a horizon line on a card in watercolor pencil to create a simple image. Right now I’m in love with cactus spines (only when they are firmly attached to the cactus), so I drew them in with a pencil, then went over them in a yellow glitter pen. That doesn’t show in the image above.

Then I adjusted a piece of voile so the red was across the top and the orange on the bottom of the card. When I stitched it on, it looked pleasing, but needed a bit more.

I sewed another piece of voile across the top third of the card. I used a bright yellow thread which blended better than I anticipated. I used an ivory bobbin thread to not contrast too strongly on the back of the card.

Finally, using a River City Rubber Works postcard rubber stamp, I finished the back of the card to look like a real postcard. The card on the top is the reverse of the first, plain postcard, the one on the bottom is the cactus postcard, ready to send!

Please join me in making postcards for the kids in Japan who have lost their homes, toys, beds, and clothing. I dubbed them Sakura (cherry blossom) children because the festivals around cherry blossoms were cancelled in Japan this year. Postcards are easy to make–you can use actual postcards, too, just add a cheerful message. You can send them to me in groups (in an envelope) or individually, directly to my mailbox. I’ll forward them to Japan.

Sakura Children
P.O. Box 12183
Glendale, AZ 85318

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who is learning how to use a sewing machine.

Postcards for Japan–Add Yours, Too

My parents were refugees when they arrived here. Four wooden crates, combined to a size of a medium refrigerator and a small top-loading washer,  spoke for the first four decades of the lives of my parents and my two brothers. Those boxes contained everything–bedding, towels, clothing, shoes, books, kitchenware, toys (I remember only one), and what was left of their life. No furniture, no appliances, and certainly no TV, car, lawnmower, ladder, buckets or all the other items a family of four would accumulate to make up a life.

Tonia from Phoenix made these bright watercolor cards with rounded corners.

I was born the next year, so I don’t remember the first desperate weeks. What I do remember is that I never knew we were poor. We played tag and ball outside, climbed trees, and used our imaginations. At night, we would lie outside and my Father would tell us about the stars or tell stories. My oldest brother would read stories and poems he was learning in school. We didn’t have a TV till I was 16 years old. One of my most precious possessions from that time, so important that I have it still, was a postcard sent by a family friend. On one side was an image of an exotic place, on the other side was. . .a message just for me. “Wish you were here.” I has been in every room, apartment, condo, and house I’ve owned. It was in the studio when the house burned in 2003, and I have what is left of it still.

Anne from Australia made these mixed media postcards. Some have Japanese handwriting on the back!

Postcards are small art works, sent from the heart. They confirm affection, being missed, being included, being thought of. How could they not be wonderful?

When the earthquake collapsed Fukushima, Japan, and washed away homes, towns, cars, boats, and thousands of lives, my heart clenched. I saw children homeless, having lost everything, standing in refugee centers. I sent money, but I wanted to

Bo from Wisconsin sent in these bright one-stroke watercolor postcards.

do more. I remembered that precious postcard and decided that  a small piece of handmade art could still be precious. Could let a child know they were remembered, thought of, prayed for, cherished, even in such bleak circumstances. I cannot send enough money, I can’t go there and work or comfort people, but I can send a piece of handmade art, because art speaks directly to the heart, no translators needed.

Bea from Redondo Beach, CA sent in these mixed media postcards. The backs all have stories about Abraham Lincoln, and the front have colorful images.

When I asked people to send postcards to me so I could forward them to the children, I had no idea how many would come. I thought people might send me a postcard or two. But the postcards have started to come in. In envelopes. In bunches. I smiled with the first ones, and cried when I pulled more envelopes out of the post office box. I thought I’d share the first ones with you here, and encourage you to make yours, too, and send them in. They don’t have to be perfect, or wonderful. Just made with love.

Thank you so much Tonia in Phoenix, Bo in Tucson (on her way back to Madison!), Anne in Australia and Bea in Redondo Beach, California. Thanks for taking the time and spending money on postage.  You remind me of the truth of what Mother Theresa said:  “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

If you haven’t made a postcard yet, I am happy to get more.  Send them to: Sakura Children c/o
P.O. Box 12183

You can see larger versions of the postcards on my Flickr site.
-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who is thrilled to know that friends and strangers alike care for others.